Click v. Alabama
STATEMENT OF INTEREST OF AMICI
The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), with more than 200,000 members and 1,200 state and local affiliates, is the Nation’s leading grassroots organization dedicated solely to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and severe anxiety disorders. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Alabama is the NAMI State Chapter in Alabama. With 1,100 members and 26 affiliates, NAMI Alabama is the leading advocacy organization for people with severe mental illnesses in the State. NAMI and NAMI Alabama seek in this case to ensure that people with severe mental illnesses are afforded the right to participate meaningfully in their criminal trials. This includes the ability to communicate with counsel and otherwise understand the implications of a criminal trial or other proceedings against them, in accordance with the requirements of the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Alabama. NAMI and NAMI Alabama further seek a standard of review of insanity verdicts which would enable this Court to provide effective review for defendants whose criminal responsibility may be diminished because of severe mental illness.
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
Jimmy Shane Click was found guilty of capital murder on June 18,1994, in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Alabama. On June 28, 1994, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
On December 20,1996, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Madison County Circuit Court in Click v. State, 695 So.2d 209 (Ala.Crim.App.1996). A Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed with the Alabama Supreme Court. This writ was denied on May 9, 1997. A Petition for Writ of Certiorari was then filed with the United States Supreme Court, and this writ was denied on December 1, 1997.
Subsequently, Shane Click filed a Rule 32 Petition on October 30,1998. The Rule 32 Petition was denied on January 8, 1999 and the appeal was filed on February 3, 1999.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Amici incorporate, by reference, the Statement contained in Appellant Jimmy Shane Click’s brief to this Court.
I. SHANE CLICK’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED BECAUSE HE WAS SUBJECTED TO TRIAL WHILE NOT COMPETENT.
The right to actively participate in and understand the implications of one’s criminal trial is a fundamental right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I of the Constitution of the State of Alabama. As recently as November of 1997, the Alabama Supreme Court reiterated this clear and uncontroverted principal in holding that the "[t]rial of a person who is incompetent violates due process guarantees." Ex Parte Janezic, 723 So.2d 725, 728 (Ala. 1997), citing Davis v. Alabama, 545 F.2d 460 (5th Cir. 1997). See also Cooper v. Oklahoma, 116 S.Ct. 1373 (1996); Medina v. California, 112 S.Ct. 2572 (1992); and, Pate v. Robinson, 86 S.Ct. 836 (1966).
In this case, Shane Click was clearly not competent during trial to participate meaningfully in his own defense. The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly recognized that a trial court has a sua sponte obligation to insure the competency of defendants throughout their trial. Pate v. Robinson, 86 S. Ct 836 (1966); Drope v. Missouri 420 U.S. 162 (1974). The failure of the trial court to conduct an evaluation of Shane Click’s competency in this case resulted in a violation of his rights under the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of Alabama. Consequently, this Court should either declare that Jimmy Shane Click was insane or, in the alternative, grant him a new trial.
A. There Is Overwhelming Evidence That Shane Click Was Not Capable of Assisting His Counsel Nor Understanding The Nature of The Proceedings Against Him.
Abundant evidence exists that Shane Click was not competent to stand trial. This evidence arises from a variety of sources, including medical records, expert medical testimony, affidavits of jurors and observers of this trial, and the observations of his cellmate.
On March 2, 1994, more than three months prior to Shane’s trial, Dr. Lawrence Maier evaluated Shane and issued a report that Shane Click was competent to stand trial. (R. 50). In reliance on this report, the trial court elected not to hold a competency hearing and proceeded with trial. In the ensuring time period prior to trial, Shane’s medications were increased significantly and he was eventually prescribed Clozaril, 600 milligrams per dosage, three times a day, as well as other powerful medications. (R. 935-936). During the trial, evidence was presented by Dr. Merikangas that a dosage of 600 milligrams of Clozaril once per day is an extremely high dosage that is used to heavily sedate patients who are very agitated. Although patients provided this dosage of Clozaril can walk, eat and breathe, they are not capable of clear rational thought or critical understanding of their surroundings. Throughout his trial, Shane was receiving three times this amount of Clozaril as well as large doses of additional medications. This combination was described by Dr. Merikangas as the equivalent of a "chemical straight jacket." (Supplemental R. 47).
The effect of Shane’s heavy medication was apparent to everyone in the courtroom. More than twenty affidavits have been supplied by jurors and observers at Shane’s trial offering insight into his demeanor at trial. All of these affidavits comment on his unresponsive behavior and heavily medicated state. He is described as appearing "tired", "sleepy", "dazed", "heavily drugged", "lethargic", "out of it", "sick", "blank", "indifferent", and "totally zoned out." It should also be noted that Shane failed to actively communicate with his counsel or participate in his defense throughout the trial.
Also during this period, Anthony Sledge, an inmate at the detention facility, observed Shane engaging in behavior that lends further credence to the conclusion that Shane was not competent to stand trial. Mr. Sledge observed Shane using the bathroom on himself, picking up his shower shoe thinking it was a juice drink, and generally acting incapable of paying attention to or understanding simple activities happening around him. (Supplemental R. 24).
There is case law in addition to Ex Parte Janezic to support a determination by this Court that Shane was not competent to stand trial. In Whitehead v. Wainwright, 609 F.2d 223 (5th Cir. 1980), the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that a habeas petitioner was incompetent to stand trial due to the effects of tranquilizers and other medications on the defendant. The court found persuasive the district court’s finding that, as a result of the medication, the defendant "seemed drunk, sleepy, staggered and glassy-eyed." 447 F.Supp. 898, 901 (M.D.Fla.1978). Further the defendant fell asleep in court, had slurred speech and could not later remember making statements in the record.
Similarly, in Williams v. State, 386 So.2d 506 (Ala.Cr.App. 1980), the court found the defendant incompetent to stand trial based on the testimony of a psychiatrist, an acquaintance from jail and the defendant’s court appointed guardian which supported that conclusion. The latter two witnesses observed the defendant, among other things, eat off the floor, wash his face in a commode, and appear "just blank." Id at 509.
Both of these cases bear striking similarities to the case at hand. As in Whitehead, the defendant in this case was rendered incompetent to stand trial due, in part, to the effects of high dosages of medication. As in Williams, the defendant, Shane Click, was seen engaging in behavior clearly indicative of an impaired mental state. Taken separately, either similarity is adequate justification to conclude that Shane Click was not competent to stand trial in June of 1994. Considered together, there is no justification for reaching any other conclusion.
- The Trial Court Had An Obligation To Hold A Competency Hearing Sua Sponte.
There is clear and consistent case law holding that the trial of a person who is incompetent violates due process guarantees of the United States and Alabama Constitutions. The fundamental nature of this right has led the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize the ongoing and sua sponte obligation of trial courts to insure the competency of defendants to stand trial from beginning to end. See, Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 384, and Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 181 (1974) ("[e]ven when a defendant is competent at the commencement of his trial, a trial court must always be alert to circumstances suggesting a change that would render the accused unable to meet the standards of competence to stand trial").
Further, the Supreme Court of Alabama has recognized the obligation of a trial court to conduct a competency hearing sua sponte when questions about a defendant’s competency arise during trial:
When a trial court is faced with facts that create a reasonable and bona fide doubt as to the mental competency of the defendant to stand trial, the trial court must take steps to assure that a reasonable legal determination of competency is reached. [Citation omitted.] In other words, in such situations, the trial court must inquire into the defendant’s competency, generally by conducting a competency hearing. Ex parte LaFlore, 445 So.2d 932 (Ala.1983)."
Ex Parte Janizek, Id at 727; see also, Lackey v. State, 615 So. 2d 145, 155 (Ala.Cr.App.1992) ("a trial judge has an independent, ongoing, and continuing duty to prevent the trial of an accused who is unable to assist in his defense);" Gothard v. State, 452 So.2d 889, 893 (Ala.Cr.App.), cert. stricken, 450 So.2d 479 (Ala.1984) and Williams v. State, 386 So.2d 506, 511 (Ala.Cr.App. 1980) (holding that the "trial court abused its discretion in failing to initiate a second inquiry regarding the competency of the appellant to stand trial" where "evidence indicates that there had been a change in the appellant’s condition after his return from [the mental institution in which he was held.]").
In the instant case, the trial judge observed the same defendant that the prosecution, the witnesses, the jurors and the observers to the trial observed. A defendant who was "heavily drugged", "lethargic", "out of it", "sick", "blank", "indifferent", "tired", "sleepy", "dazed" and "totally zoned out." A defendant who also failed to actively communicate with his counsel or participate in his defense throughout the trial. Just as it was error to continue with the trials in Ex Parte Janezic, Williams and Whitehead, it is respectfully submitted that the trial court committed error in continuing the trial of the incompetent Shane Click.
C. The Court Should Find That Shane Click Was Insane, Or A new Trial Should Be Held.
Courts are in clear accord that once an incompetent defendant has been subjected to trial, the State must provide the defendant a new trial. As held in Pate, "[h]aving determined that [the defendant’s] constitutional rights were abridged by his failure to receive an adequate hearing on his competence to stand trial, we direct that the writ of habeas corpus must issue and [the defendant] be discharged, unless the State gives him a new trial within a reasonable time." 383 U.S. 375, at 386. In Pate, the Supreme Court’s decision on the defendant’s competency was handed down six years after the violation of his constitutional rights. Based upon this significant time delay, the Court held that a new trial was required rather than a new competency hearing because the jury would have to be able to observe the subject of their inquiry, and expert witnesses would have to testify solely from information contained in the printed record Id at 387. See also, Drope, where the Court required a new trial and dismissed the suggestion that a new hearing on defendant’s competency was adequate where five years had passed between the original trial and the Supreme Court’s ruling, 420 U.S. at 183, and Ex Parte Janezic, Williams, and Roy, where the court in each case remanded the case for a new trial after determining the incompetent defendant’s rights were violated.
Founded in the tenets of fairness and equity and based upon the evidence and case law provided above, we respectfully request that this Court either find that Shane Click was insane or require a new trial.
II. DUE TO OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE OF THE DEFENDANT’S INSANITY AT TRIAL AND RELIANCE BY THE STATE ON INAPPROPRIATE REBUTTAL TESTIMONY, THE JURY’S DETERMINATION OF SANITY WAS IMPROPER AND SHOULD BE OVERTURNED.
The standard for a reviewing court in Alabama to overturn a jury’s determination of a defendant’s sanity is clear. For a minimum of 65 years Alabama courts have held that a jury’s finding of sanity may only be overturned "in those cases where the proof of insanity is overwhelming and uncontradicted." Boyle v. State, 154 So. 575, at 583. See also Click v. State, 695 So.2d 209, 235 (Ala.Cr.App. 1996).
In reviewing the evidence controverting the insanity of Shane Click, this court relied on three rebuttal witnesses: Dr. Lawrence Maier, Dr. Mary Traynor and Frank Preston. As provided below, the jury’s reliance on these witnesses was improper, an abuse of discretion and therefore did not create a credible basis to support its finding.
A. Frank Preston Was Not Qualified To Provide Evidence As An Expert.
This court found Frank Preston to be "the strongest witness for the state’s position that [Shane] was able to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his actions at the time of Ms. McClure’s murder." 695 So.2d at 234. Unfortunately, the court also believed that Frank Preston was a psychologist. Id. at 218. ("As grounds for its argument, the State cites the trial testimony of Dr. Frank Preston, a psychologist who was treating appellant…") (Emphasis added.) Id. Frank Preston is a counselor and not a psychologist.
By statute, counseling is limited to helping people understand personal problems, defining personal goals and assisting clients in realizing these goals. Ala. Code § 34-8A-2(5)(a). Also by statute, counselors are expressly prohibited from prescribing or administering drugs, using projective techniques to assess personality traits or disorders and representing themselves to be psychologists. Ala. Code §§ 34-8A-2(5)(b) and 34-8A-3. The Alabama Code does not allow counselors to diagnose mental illnesses. It is the strong position of Amici that counselors do not have the training, skill or expertise to diagnosis mental illness and should refer all such matters to psychologists and psychiatrists.
Two concrete examples of the dangers associated with allowing counselors to diagnose mental illnesses can be found in the actions of Frank Preston in this matter. First, contrary to the conclusions of Dr. Merikangas and other expert psychologists and psychiatrists who evaluated and/or treated Shane Click, Mr. Preston diagnosed Shane’s mental illness as an Adjustment Disorder. (R. 663). Dr. Merikangas testified that an Adjustment Disorder is a personal difficulty occurring in connection with minor changes in one’s life (e.g. for adolescents, moving from junior high school to high school.) (R. 694-695). An Adjustment Disorder is not a serious mental illnesses. Further, Mr. Preston clearly failed to recognize the signs and symptoms of Shane Click’s serious mental illness.
Second, Mr. Preston has testified that he discontinued Shane’s Lithium in May of 1990. (R. 668). Notwithstanding any legal issues surrounding the inappropriate discontinuance of psychiatric medication by a counselor, this was a terrible mistake which was very likely a significant contributor to Ms. McClure’s death.
The Court relied on the testimony of Frank Preston as a psychologist trained and qualified to diagnose serious mental illnesses. Since Frank Preston, in fact, is not a psychologist and is not qualified to diagnose serious mental illnesses, the jury should have been instructed to disregard his testimony, or in the alternative treat it as the testimony of a lay witness.
- Dr. Maier’s Evaluation Was Not Adequate to Accurately Assess Shane Click’s State of Mind At the Time of the Crime.
The State also relied on Dr. Lawrence Maier to rebut the evidence of Shane’s insanity. Dr. Maier testified that he began his evaluation of Shane on March 2, 1994 to determine his competency to stand trial. The length of time Dr. Maier spent interviewing Shane was two to three hours. (R. 637-639). Dr. Maier never reviewed Shane’s medical records from Mountain View Baptist Hospital and never spoke with Shane’s treating physician. Id Almost four years after the incident and based upon two to three hours of evaluation without reference to existing medical records or speaking with the treating physician, Dr. Maier testified that "the effect at the time of the crime for mental illness causes, was minimal at best. Of far more relevance, in my opinion, was that he was probably intoxicated from cocaine, LSD and marijuana, certainly cocaine and marijuana." (R. 639).
The course of a severe mental illness such as schizoaffective disorder is seldom linear. Individuals who suffer from this serious brain disorder may have periods where they are relatively high functioning and lucid, and periods during which they are highly symptomatic and dysfunctional. The episodic nature of schizoaffective disorder is described in detail in the DSM-IV, the authoritative source used by psychiatrists and psychologists for diagnosing and treating mental disorders.
The symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder may occur in a variety of temporal patterns. The following is a typical pattern: An individual may have pronounced auditory hallucinations and persecutory delusions for 2 months before the onset of a prominent Major Depressive Episode. The psychotic symptoms and the full Major Depressive Episode are then present for 3 months. Then, the person recovers completely from the Major Depressive Episode, but the psychotic symptoms persist for another month before they too disappear.
American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 293, (Fourth Edition, 1994).
The Shane Click who was evaluated by Dr. Maier on March 2, 1994 may have been very different from the individual involved in the tragic incident four years earlier. This becomes even more likely in light of the fact that Shane was treated consistently during this four year time period. Despite this, Dr. Maier apparently did not review any materials documenting Shane’s mental status at the time of the incident. Thus, Dr. Maier’s opinion about Shane’s sanity at the time of the crime was entirely speculative and, as such, should have been excluded.
C. Shane Click Provided Overwhelming Evidence At Trial Of His Insanity At The Time Of The Crime.
At trial, the defense presented four experts, all of whom were psychologists or psychiatrists, to establish that due to his severe mental illness, Shane was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his acts at the time of the crime. All of them reached the same conclusion. First, they agreed that schizoaffective disorder is a very severe mental illness characterized by delusions and hallucinations, severe mood swings, and vacillation between periods of high and low psychotic thinking and behavior. (R. 600, 983,984). Most importantly, all of these experts concluded that Shane was, in fact, suffering from schizoaffective disorder at the time of the crime.
This conclusion was particularly emphasized during the testimony of Dr. Rush and Dr. Merikangas. Their testimony strongly supports the probability that Shane was suffering from a serious mental disease which prevented him from appreciating the wrongfulness of his acts at the time of the crime and therefore met the standard required to support an insanity defense in Alabama. See Ware v. State, 584 So.2d 939 (Ala.Cr.App. 1991) ("serious mental disease or defect at the time of the crime [and s]econd, his mental disease … prevented him from appreciating the nature and quality or wrongfulness of his acts"); and Ala. Code § 13A-3-1. In fact, Judge Cobb found in Click that Shane "satisfi[ed] the first requirement of the two-part test in Ware," 695 So.2d at 233, and was a "walking timebomb" (Id. at 235). Further, in a special concurrence in Janezic v. State, 723 So.2d 730 (Ala.Cr.App.1998) on remand from Ex Parte Janezic, supra, ("Janezic II"), he held that Shane was "a young man who suffered from an extensive and protracted incurable mental illness and who had been taken off of his powerful psychotropic and antidepressant medication." Id at 731.
In addition to abundant expert testimony, Shane’s counsel put forth credible lay testimony, significant circumstantial evidence and evidence of the tragic stoppage of his medication in the days prior to the crime, all of which conclusively established Shane’s insanity at the time of the crime. See appellant’s brief submitted in this appeal.
D. The Overwhelming Evidence of Insanity Provided by Shane Click Requires a Reversal of the Verdict.
The rebuttal evidence provided by the State consisted of testimony of Dr. Maier, Frank Preston, and Dr. Traynor. All other evidence was merely circumstantial, such as the planning that went into the crime, Shane’s attempt to hide evidence, his regular association with friends and his ability to maintain employment. Click at 234, 235. As provided above, the testimony of Dr. Maier should be excluded or heavily discounted due to (1) his insufficient review of Shane and his history, and (2) the speculative nature of his conclusions. The testimony of Frank Preston should have been struck from these proceedings entirely due to the mistaken belief that he was a psychologist, when in fact he is a counselor and not qualified to make professionals judgements about the sanity of a defendant. In the alternative, he should have been treated as a lay witness who saw Shane on the day of the incident. Dr. Traynor’s testimony concurred in the diagnosis of Shane’s schizoaffective disorder.
While circumstantial evidence can be a useful tool, the circumstantial evidence presented here is inconclusive at best and must be discounted under the compelling analysis provided by Judge Patterson in his dissent in Janezic I. As he stated, "I believe that [the ability to plan a murder as being probative of one’s ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of an act] is contrary to the expert testimony at trial, contrary to human experience, and unsupported by law." 723 So.2d at 721, n11. Further, "evidence of flight often sheds dim light on a defendant’s consciousness of guilt, it is even less illuminative of a defendant’s ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct." Id at 719. Like evidence of flight, attempts to hide evidence or mislead an investigation are reactive to a situation. Therefore, they are not conclusive to the existence or non-existence of a serious mental illness.
The case at hand is similar to Woods v. State, 364 So.2d 1178 (Ala.Cr.App.1978) where the defendant pled not guilty of murder by reason of insanity and provided two expert witnesses and one lay witness to testify as to the defendant’s severe mental illness. In rebuttal, the State put forth three lay witnesses, two of whom spoke with the defendant on the day of the murder, and circumstantial evidence. The trial court rejected the insanity defense and found the defendant guilty. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, finding the defendant insane. As a basis for the reversal, the court discounted the testimony of the State’s lay witnesses on the basis that there was no evidence that "they had any knowledge of the different types of insanity, the causes, or the symptoms that manifest the disease." Id. at 1186.
Shane’s counsel presented clear and convincing evidence from credible lay and expert witnesses. While we recognize the ability of a jury to discount expert testimony based upon objective reasons those reasons did not exist in this matter. We submit that the jury acted arbitrarily in ignoring the "voluminous evidence showing that Click suffered from a schizoaffective disorder" (Janezic II at 731), was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his acts at the time of the crime, and therefore should have been found not guilty by reason of insanity.
- THE STANDARD OF REVIEW FOR A JURY’S REJECTION OF AN INSANITY DEFENSE IS TOO STRINGENT AND SHOULD BE REVISED.
This case has represented a difficult review for this court. The existing standard for the review of a jury verdict rejecting a defense of insanity is "overwhelming and uncontradicted" evidence. See Click. This case illustrates that it is virtually impossible for defendants to meet this standard. In its application, the standard violates principles of justice and is of questionable constitutionality. Therefore, we submit that the time has come to follow the example of a majority of other states and adopt a standard that does not deny defendants the right to mount an effective appeal.
A. The Type, Quality, And Amount Of Evidence Which Must Be Provided To Constitute Overwhelming And Uncontroverted Evidence Has Become Practically Insurmountable And Approaches An Unconstitutional Bar To Review Of Insanity Verdicts.
The standard an appellant must meet to overcome the overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence required to overturn a jury’s rejection of an insanity defense has become almost insurmountable and is approaching an absolute bar to review. While the standard has not changed in the last 65 years since Boyle, we submit that the type, quality and amount of evidence the appellant must provide has increased and the type, quality and amount of evidence the State must produce has decreased in this time. As a result, the functional disparity between these two is approaching an absolute bar to review and results in unjust holdings at the appellate level such as Janezic I and Click.
Judge Patterson’s thorough and well reasoned dissent in Janezic I provided a history of the Alabama Appellate court’s decisions upholding and reversing the jury’s verdict in insanity defense cases. Judge Patterson’s research, with which we concur, revealed eighteen cases dating back to 1953 which sought review of the jury’s rejection of an insanity defense. Of these, the court upheld the jury’s verdict in nine cases and overturned the verdict in nine cases. However, it must be noted that since 1990, this court has heard six such cases and has upheld the jury verdict in five of the six cases. We are certainly cognizant of the fact that each case must be judged on its unique facts alone, and that statistics are not, nor should they be, the signpost of a judicial system. Further, it may be argued that these statistics result from the change in the law governing the evidence of insanity to be presented at trial from "preponderance" to "clear and convincing." However, as provided in each case heard since the amendment, the standard of review on appeal has not changed and the evidence to overcome the jury’s verdict should be the same. As a result, these cases indicate an increasing evidentiary disparity between the State and the appellant and reflect a new definition of what constitutes "overwhelming and uncontradicted" evidence. An analysis and comparison of several of these cases is enlightening and supportive of this proposition.
The above referenced cases all involve defendants who based a defense, in part, on being insane at the time of the crime. In all cases, the defense and the State put forth witnesses supporting and refuting the defendant’s insanity at the time of the crime. In most cases, the State’s witnesses consisted of lay witnesses, while the defense used a combination of expert and lay witnesses. While recognizing the prerogative of the jury to reject all expert witnesses, the court also recognized the rule that all "opinion testimony, even of experts in insanity cases, must be weighed by the jury and not arbitrarily ignored." Ex Parte Turner, 455 So.2d at 911.
Perhaps the case most illustrative of the definitional change of this court is Woods v. State, see infra. In Woods, the defendant, previously a stable member of a neighborhood community, shot a ten-year-old for conducting what he believed was an interracial relationship. The defendant pled not guilty by reason of insanity and used two experts and one lay witness to establish his insanity. The State used three very credible lay witnesses who knew the defendant well, had regular contact with him and even saw the defendant on the day of the crime. All State lay witnesses testified that they believed the defendant to be sane at the time of the crime. Further, the State relied on circumstantial evidence regarding the defendant’s actions after the crime to establish his sanity. The jury rejected the proffered insanity defense and found the defendant guilty of murder.
In reversing the jury’s verdict on appeal, this court held:
[w]e are impressed that the testimony of the State’s lay witnesses was weak and inconclusive and certainly was not supported by any inference that they had any knowledge of the different types of insanity, the causes, or the symptoms that manifest the disease. They were just random witnesses whose knowledge of legal insanity was nil." 364 So.2d at 1186.
See also, Ex Parte Turner, infra, (jury verdict reversed based on defendant’s one expert and two lay witnesses in favor of insanity verses the State’s two lay witnesses in favor of sanity) and Clark v. State, 475 So.2d 657 (Ala.Cr.App.1985) (jury verdict reversed based on defense expert testimony of insanity and "bizarre" behavior verses State’s circumstantial evidence).
Woods can be juxtaposed to either Click or Janezic I. In both cases, the defendant put on highly credible expert and lay witnesses who reached the same conclusion; the defendant was insane at the time of the crime and therefore was not capable of understanding the wrongfulness of his or her actions. Both juries chose to ignore the quality and amount of expert testimony establishing the defendant’s insanity, and instead based a verdict solely on lay witnesses and circumstantial evidence. Nevertheless, the Appellate Court affirmed the jury’s verdict in both cases. It is respectfully submitted that had the Woods court reviewed Janizek or this case, both would have been reversed on appeal.
As can be seen in the foregoing analysis and review of the cases since 1953, several trends appear. First, the level of expert evidence the appellant must produce has increased. Second, the level of evidence the State must present at trial has decreased, almost to the point that any testimony refuting insanity will suffice, regardless of quality. This is particularly demonstrated by the deference given to lay testimony in the face of contradictory expert testimony. Finally, reliance on circumstantial evidence has increased significantly.
The definition of what constitutes "overwhelming and uncontradicted" evidence has shifted. It has become a standard almost insurmountable and approaches an unconstitutional bar to review. It is our position that this change, whether inadvertent or not, is unwarranted and has created a vehicle for injustice. Shane Click presented overwhelming and, by reasonable assessment, uncontradicted evidence of his insanity at the time of crime. Therefore, the verdict should be reversed.
B. Alabama Is In A Small Minority Of States Requiring An Almost Insurmountable Standard Of Review.
The past thirty years have seen remarkable advances in identifying the causes, etiology and treatments for serious brain disorders such as schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, and bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness). The standard set in Boyle almost 65 years ago is no longer appropriate. While applicable in 1934, our understanding of mental illness has since made great strides and so too should our laws. Where the strict interpretation of precedence causes an unjust and inequitable outcome, we, as a just society, must constantly reconsider and adapt our laws to insure fairness and equity.
Members of this court have recognized the injustice being served on the people of Alabama by strict enforcement of the dated Boyle standard. Indeed Judges Patterson in Janezic I and Cobb in Janezic II have expressed their frustration with its application. As stated by Judge Cobb, "As I worked on Click, I became concerned that the standard for overturning a jury verdict of guilt in a case in which the defendant has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity was too stringent." 723 So.2d at 731.
Alabama is in a small minority of states who still use the highest possible standard for review of insanity cases, "overwhelming and uncontradicted" evidence. The following table provides a brief overview of states and their applicable standards of review in insanity cases:
State Standard of Review
Alabama Overwhelming and uncontradicted
Arizona Substantial evidence
Arkansas Preponderance of evidence
California Reasonably supported
Connecticut Reasonably supported
Delaware Reasonably supported
Florida Substantial, competent evidence
Georgia Preponderance of evidence
Hawaii Reasonable doubt of sanity
Idaho Substantial and competent evidence
Indiana Evidence of insanity was without conflict
Illinois Reasonable doubt
Iowa Substantial evidence
Kansas Reasonable doubt
Kentucky Clearly unreasonable
Louisiana Preponderance of evidence
Maine Preponderance of evidence
Maryland Beyond a reasonable doubt
Massachusetts Beyond a reasonable doubt
Minnesota Preponderance of evidence
Mississippi Overwhelming and unconscionable
Missouri Beyond a reasonable doubt
Nebraska Insufficient evidence to support
New Hampshire Preponderance of evidence
New York Serious flaw in expert testimony
Nevada Substantial evidence
N. Carolina Evidence to support presumption of sanity
N. Dakota Substantial evidence
Ohio Sufficiency of evidence
Oklahoma Any evidence to support
Oregon Adequate evidence
Pennsylvania Amply supported by evidence
Rhode Island Clearly wrong or overlooked
S. Dakota Beyond reasonable doubt
Tennessee Reasonably supported
Texas Preponderance of evidence
Utah Verdict without reason
Vermont Beyond a reasonable doubt
Washington Substantial evidence required
W. Virginia Beyond a reasonable doubt
Wisconsin No credible evidence
Wyoming Substantial evidence required
Of the 45 states identified, only 4 have a standard for reviewing a jury’s rejection of the insanity defense as strict and difficult to meet as that of Alabama. All other states allow for review if the request is supported by either a reasonable amount or preponderance of evidence. While we appreciate the need to avoid "invad[ing] the province of the jury" (Boyle, 154 So. at 583), a standard which imposes an overly inflexible and almost insurmountable burden on defendants seeking insanity reviews is unfair and creates great potential for decisions based on lack of understanding or prejudice.
As provided above, the "overwhelming and uncontradicted" standard of review remains in effect in only a very small minority of states. This standard removes a reasonability assessment to the evidence presented and creates unjust hardship. It is respectfully submitted that the time has come for the State of Alabama to join the overwhelming majority of states who have recognized the need for a more reasonable and just standard for reviewing insanity verdicts. This Court has an opportunity to influence the development of a standard that is consistent with scientific understanding and principles of justice.
Jimmy Shane Click presented overwhelming and, by reasonable standards, uncontradicted evidence of his insanity at the time of the crime of which he was convicted. Further, it is clear that he was subjected to trial despite not being competent to participate meaningfully in his own defense. As such, we respectfully request that this court declare that Jimmy Shane Click was insane or, in the alternative, grant him a new trial.
Ronald S. Honberg
Attorney for Amici Curiae
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that I have forwarded a copy of the foregoing to Attorney General Bill Pryor, State House, 11 South Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130, and Stephen Strickland, Law Offices of Jaffe, Strickland, Beasley and Drennan, P.C., The Alexander House, 2320 Arlington Avenue, Birmingham, AL 35205, by United States mail, first class postage prepaid and properly addressed, this the 16th day of April, 1999.
Ronald S. Honberg